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Towns Seek Setbacks for Wind Turbines to Protect Residents from Noise, Companies Concerned

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Across the eastern and central United States and Canada, small towns are writing ordinances to govern wind farm development, grappling with uncertainty about reasonable buffer zones to assure that residents will not be disturbed by turbine noise. In recent months, stories about several specific wind farms that have caused noise complaints have circulated more widely, raising local concerns elsewhere about the common practice of using 1000- to 1500-foot setbacks (with Mars Hill in Maine and Allegheny Ridge in Pennsylvania being the most commonly cited). The research and testimony of two doctors, one in New York and one in Italy, and several acoustics consultants, all of whom advocate for much larger buffers between large turbines and residences, are beginning to influence local towns to adopt more stringent ordinances, which energy companies say will severely limit their abilty to find suitable sites for wind farms. The Lyme (NY) Town Counil recently required that turbines remain 4500 feet from Lake Ontario, a local river and two villages. The Logan Township (PA) Board of Supervisors tabled a scheduled vote on a new ordinance that would establish a 2500 setback from neighboring property lines, deciding they need to gather more information, especially about noise impacts. “You guys aren’t going to pick up [the wind turbines] and move them,” Supervisor Ed Frontino said. Supervisors Chairman Frank Meloy said he visited Todd and Jill Stull in Juniata Township, who recently sued the company that built turbines that created much more noise than promised. He and other township officials toured that farm last week with Gamesa representatives. “I would not want to live with that noise day in and day out,” Meloy said. Meanwhile, the Chatham-Kent (Ontario) Council discussed proposals from Councilor Jim Brown to establish mandatory setbacks of up to 1.5km based on commercial or residential nature of the location. “I don’t believe we have formal enough zoning in place – we have to have something firm,” said Brown. “We should have these setbacks in place before we go any further.” Establishing a clear scientific, and thus legally defensible, basis for any given setback is very difficult, leading Brown’s fellow councilors to call for more information. And in West Providence (PA), the Township instituted an ordinance that requires a 2500 foot setback from any neighboring residence, and 2000 feet from property lines. The accompanying noise limits are relatively modest, at 45dB; Calumet County (WI) recently adopted a much more stringent noise limit [SEE RELATED STORY] Sources: Watertown Daily Times, 5/7/08 [READ ARTICLE] Altoona Mirror, 5/9/08 [READ ARTICLE] Chatham Daily News, 5/6/08 [READ ARTICLE] West Providence Wind Ordinance, 4/7/08 [READ EXCERPT] 
[See AEI Special Report: Wind Turbine Noise Impacts]

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